NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ -- Mark Elek and Youssef Ezzeldin, two senior members of the New Providence boys soccer team, both came into last Saturday's showdown with rival Gov. Livingston on a bit of a tear.
Elek had racked up three goals in a 5-1 victory over Linden two days earler, and Ezzeldin had a hat trick against A.L. Johnson High School two days before the Linden game.
In New Providence's 3-2 overtime victory over GL on Saturday, Elek scored the Pioneers' first goal after combining with Christian Muller down the right hand side of the field. After the game ended 2-2 in regulation time, Ezzeldin scored the game-winning goal after controlling the ball with his chest. He unleashed what Pioneers coach Craig Barclay called "an unstoppable strike right into the top corner of the goal" that set off a wild celebration by the home team.
Elek and Ezzeldin have been selected as the TAPinto New Providence co-athletes of the week.
"Mark has been a true leader on and off the field this year," Barclay said. "His passion for the game is inspirational and with our team being so young this year is essential for the group."
Of Ezzeldin, Barclay said, "The boys look up to Youseff as both an amazing talent and a positive role model."
Elek and Ezzeldin both took time out this week to respond to a few questions.
Q: What are your goals for the team this year?
Ezzeldin: Some of my team goals for this season are to win as many games as we can, and win the state title with the group of guys we have. Even though we are young and don't have a lot of experience together, we are a very tough and hardworking team and will leave it all on the field every game. Some of my personal goals are: getting a lot of goals and assists this season, creating many goal chances for my team in many different scenarios and communicating to the younger players the importance of soccer and helping them succeed in their respective positions.
Elek: Our goal is to defend our sectional title, we know it’s a big ask but we still are shooting for that as our minimum for the season. Personally my goal is to get my team back to that sectional final.
Q: How has your game changed since last season?
Ezzeldin: My game has improved a lot since last year to be honest. This year I put extra time and effort mentally and physically to be fitter and improve all aspects of my game. I knew I had to work hard not only for myself but for the team as well, and I became smarter with my positioning, controlling the tempo of our game, and leading the team through the midfield.
Elek: Personally I’ve changed a lot from last season. With a younger group I found myself having to lead this team a lot more than last year.
Q: What's the best advice you've ever received from a coach?
Ezzeldin: No matter the score or the game situation, always push yourself throughout the game and don't expect others to do the work for you. Also, try to remain positive and supportive during difficult moments as that's when it matters the most.
Elek: If you don’t want the ball you shouldn’t be on the field.
Q: What has been your most memorable game?
Ezzeldin: My most memorable game has to be the recent game against Governor of Livingston. It was 2-2 going into overtime and I scored the winner in a massive rivalry game. That was truly a dream-defining moment and gave me more confidence in my overall game than I have ever had before.
Elek: Most memorable game has to be our sectional final last season. Winning at home the way we did is something every high school athletes dreams of.
Q: What is your favorite subject in school?
Ezzeldin: My favorite subject is Math.
Elek: History; I’m a huge history nerd.
Q: Who is your favorite athlete?
Ezzeldin: Eden Hazard (Belgian soccer star) or Ronaldinho (former Brazilian soccer player).
Elek: Cristiano Ronaldo (captain of Portuguese national soccer team)--you could see it in the way I celebrate.
Q: Who is your role model?
Ezzeldin: Mohamed Salah (Egyptian soccer player and member of Liverpool in the EPL).
Elek: My role model is my father. He taught me how to play and got me into the game. He was my first coach and sacrificed a lot to get me where I am today.
The Joe Eberle Weichert Realtors Pioneer Athlete of the Week is sponsored by Joe Eberle Weichert Realtors located at 64 Main Street in Chatham. Joe is a 25 year New Providence resident who is an active member of the New Providence community. Contact Joe anytime, whether it's to get started on helping you realize your real estate goals and dreams, or just to ask a question about the local market. Joe can be reached at email@example.com or call 908-868-4800.